By Richard Gaines
---- — State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante has been appointed vice chairwoman of the Joint Economic Development Committee by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the speaker announced Thursday.
Elected to the Legislature in 2008, Ferrante had previously been a member of the Economic Development panel, which wrote the jobs bill funding the MassWorks program that last month produced $3 million for Gloucester infrastructure improvements on Commercial Street and Fort Square.
The city, the state and the developer Beauport Gloucester LLC., are jointly financing the upgrading of the sewer, drainage and water systems serving the Fort and the connector, two lane Commercial Street. The infrastructure is estimated to cost at least $7 million. The 101-room hotel would be built on the site of the former Birdseye property across from a series of fishing industry businesses.
”I’m proud to assign Rep. Ferrante to the position of Vice Chairwoman of the Economic Development Committee, wherein she will maintain a strong commitment to the fisheries-sector of our economy,” DeLeo said in a prepared statement. “Since being elected to the Legislature in 2008, Ann-Margaret has demonstrated her commitment to her constituents and the people of the Commonwealth.
“This is a well-deserved honor and I look forward to continuing work with her this session,” DeLeo added.
In an interview Friday, Ferrante, the Gloucester Democrat whose district also includes Rockport and Essex, said she hoped to introduce the fisheries centered around Gloucester and New Bedford as a core jobs issue and element in the committee’s economic development agenda, something that has been lacking heretofore.
“I remain committed to the philosophy that one of the best social programs is a job,” she said. “Undoubtedly, I see my service as the vice-chair of Economic Development and Emerging Technology as a way to foster an economic climate and provide the tools that creates jobs not only (for) the commonwealth but also for Cape Ann.”
She added that she wants to “elevate fisheries from an environmental issue to an economic issue,” while also building fortifying traditional industries such as manufacturing, fisheries, and farming.
With that, Ferrante said, “we can enhance our economy with biotech, marine and otherwise, with emerging and transitioning economies.”
“I understand the challenges before the commonwealth as a legislator and equally important, as a resident and taxpayer of Gloucester,” she said. “Like many others, I have experienced increases in property taxes, increases in my water and sewer bill, increases in my oil bill, and increase in food prices. As a member of the legislature, I also understand the obligations each one of us has to the Commonwealth and the common good.”
In moving up on the Economic Development Committee, Ferrante gave up her seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, but keeps her seat on the Joint Committees on Environment and Natural Resources as well as on the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
The Gloucester hotel project remains in the early stages of permitting and must pass muster by the City Council, the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission. While the Beauport Gloucester LLC proposal is seen as a widely popular addition to the city as a major four-season hotel, there are many business people and residents, especially within the Fort neighborhood, who oppose the hotel.
The project crossed a key threshold last year when the council approved a zoning overlay provision to add option above the marine industrial zone that has covered the former Birdseye site and most of the Fort for several years.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.